Stanley, Charles Orr 1899 - 1989


Charles Orr (C.O) Stanley, promoter of telecommunications and industrialist, was born in Cappoquin, County Waterford, Ireland on 15 April 1899. In 1923 Stanley joined a London advertising agency specialising in engineering advertisements, which led him to found his own agency Arks Publicity. In 1924 he encouraged W.G. Pye of Cambridge to produce radios. Stanley was employed by W.G. Pye to run the radio division of the company. In 1926 Stanley devised a system for kit sets, at a time when half of radio listeners were using crystal sets.

In 1928, he laid down a deposit to purchase Pye for £60,000 and the following year floated the company publically. Stanley became managing director of Pye in 1937. He was an early believer in the potential of television, involving Pye with television in 1928, before producing sets in 1935 and marketing a 9-inch set when the BBC broadcast in 1936.

During World War Two, Stanley and Pye played a role in manufacturing military equipment including the development of a proximity fuse. Completed in 1941, it became a sensitive technology transferred under Sir Henry Tizzard to America for development; in 1944 it destroyed many flying bombs. Further to this, Stanley promoted the development of airborne radars, ASDICs, and lightweight, low power radios for troops.

In the 1930s, Stanley developed several companies in Ireland, including textile company Sunbeam Wolsey based in Cork and Pye (Ireland) ltd. In the 1940s, he established Unidare to import copper wire to Ireland, alongside Corran Works in Larne. By the 1960s, Stanley was the largest employee, aside from the government, in the Republic of Ireland.

After the war, Stanley concentrated on developing Radio and Television. He was a leading advocate for commercial television, as he believed it would help to create a mass market for television sets. Stanley became the first chairman of the British Television Policy Committee. Pye also began to manufacture and demonstrate cameras and studio equipment. Alongside Norman Collins and Sir Robert Renwick, Stanley set up the Associated Broadcasting Development Company in 1952 (subsequently ATV), which played a pivotal role in securing the Television Act in 1954, which broke the BBC’s monopoly on broadcasting. In 1961, Stanley forced the industry to demonstrate 625-line UHF sets and in 1964 he marketed the first colour televisions. His only son John Stanley was appointed managing director in 1966, but Pye’s finances were in a critical state by this stage and the group was bought out by Philips and Stanley retired.

Stanley was married three times, had one son, John Stanley, and died in Ireland in 1989.